Five-minute filler: Feed mind and body during tournament breaks

June 09, 2021inPoker

At 55 minutes past every hour, tournament poker players on PokerStars get a break. All MTTs halt simultaneously (as they do on other sites too), and grinders can scoot off to take a leak, warm up some food or say hi to a loved one sitting in another room. It’s not much, but it’s something. That five minutes can be the most important of the hour.

Our “Five-Minute Filler” series offers a few alternative ideas for things you might want to do in those five minutes — i.e., once you’ve taken your leak, eaten your food and your loved one has gone to sleep. A professional yoga instructor came up with a specialist five-minute yoga program to get players a bit more limber, and we also took a five-minute burrow down the ebay poker memorabilia rabbit hole. To be honest, you’d need to be especially flexible to part with your cash for some of the garbage we found there.

Here’s another Five-Minute Filler, which focuses on self-improvement, yet doesn’t require you to even leave your seat. We’re going to take a quick look at some online learning resources, which churn out their content in digestible chunks. So next time you find yourself struggling to fill the tournament break, click away from your poker clients, open a browser window, and check out some of these places.


Hundreds of courses on offer at Khan Academy

Every day’s a school day, right? While plenty of us hated that truth when we were actually still at school, you probably feel now, as an adult, that there are some things you just wish you knew more about. But you blew your big chance, when there was somebody standing at the front of a classroom telling you about these things and you were doing everything you could not to listen.

Khan Academy is your second chance. The best way to describe this broad and brilliant website is to think of it as a vast school teaching kindergarten through post-graduate studies in mathematics, science and humanities, where enrolment is free and optional, but available 24 hours a day. It is an enormous database of lessons, articles, videos and quizzes, available in 50 languages.

It is truly everything to everyone, but does not need to cut any corners, nor make concessions. Potential students (or teachers or parents) can sign up for free and access any course, with lessons offered in bitesize chunks. You can take as many courses as you want, at any time, and so you’re free to dip in for five minutes of basic calculus, followed by five minutes of graduate-level art history, then some microeconomics, or some computer programming.

The site saves your progress, so you can come back and start up again where you left off, or dart away on a mad tangent, as you see fit.

The beauty is that there’s no one judging you: if you feel you need to brush up on some grade school math, go ahead. It’s there in easy-to-follow, ability-appropriate chunks. If you feel you need to plug some gaps in your knowledge of world history, you’ll find plenty of lessons to address whatever areas you’re missing.

And, perhaps most importantly, if you just want to keep your knowledge expanding, rather than find it being shrivelled through the banal bickering of social media or forums, you can dip in pretty much at random and find something new that you didn’t know.


Choose from hundreds of classics to read in bite-sized chunks

We’d all like to read more books. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that about 90 percent of people reading this on their home computer are doing so in the shadow of at least five unread books, peering down from a shelf where they have sat, unopened, for several years. The guilt they project can be unbearable.

The website Daily Lit can’t do much to shift those particular books, but it can get you reading again — and it does so in a very efficient manner. Daily Lit breaks down classic novels — everything from Dickens, to Wodehouse, to the Brontes, Vonnegut, Flabert, Proust and Austen — into digestible chunks and sends them to you via email at a time of your choosing. You therefore get a totally manageable few passages, maybe a few hundred words, of a novel to tear through in the short breaks you can sometimes find. That’s your entire commitment, until the next instalment arrives.

Of course, “chapters” exist in normal books, and we can all fashion a bookmark out of something, so Daily Lit isn’t exactly doing anything we couldn’t do ourselves. But if you’ve ever picked up Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way you could be forgiven for thinking there’s no way in the world you’ll ever finish that, let alone the next six volumes. However, Daily Lit offers it in 170 instalments of fewer than 1,000 words each, which you can get once every other day, for example. Suddenly it definitely does seem doable.

The website is free and it’s easy to sign up. And it might even be an extra incentive to get to the next tournament break, just to find out what happens in your book.


TED talks come in short bursts too

It seems unlikely that anyone with a computer in 2021 isn’t at least dimly aware of what TED Talks are. Although Ted Talks (the TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) started out in the pre-internet days, as multi-day TED Conferences, they really came into their own when videos of the talks were posted online. More recently, TED also publishes highly sharable, fascinating shorter videos, which are all the more valuable for their tightness of focus.

In an index titled “Talks to watch when you need five minutes of peace” the TED curators have compiled a wonderful list of talks. There’s a quick look at the “First 21 days of a bee’s life“, for instance. Or maybe a talk on the joys of getting rid of stuff and decluttering your life and head.

As ever with TED, there are ideas bulging from every second of the video. They’re maybe not all good, but there’s always enough to get you thinking, and it’s never a wasted five minutes.


The global pandemic has been a dreadful time for almost everyone, with the notable exception of anyone making workout videos. With people of all ages unable to go to the places they normally visit to get fit, everyone has been at home, logging onto YouTube, and allowing themselves to be talked through a fitness routine.

This was already quite a crowded marketplace, but now there are numerous options for people seeking a five-minute exercise hit. The search “five minute workout” in YouTube brings up hundreds of videos, including workouts for a flat belly, flat abs, legs, fat burning, and kids. And that’s just on the first page.

Of course, once your body gets used to it, you can very easily move up to a 10-minute workout, of which there are similarly thousands of options, or even 15 or 20, where the same applies. But there’s no doubt that a tournament break spent stretching and flexing is well worth it, and will keep you focused for the next hour’s grind.


One of the unexpected joys of researching an article on things to do in five minutes is finding how many articles there are on the subject of things to do in five minutes. Just reading them all, let alone clicking on the links, can comfortably take longer than five minutes.

At one end of the spectrum, the glossy business magazine Fast Company has a list of “17 Productive Ways To Spend 5 Minutes Instead Of Checking Your Email (Again)“, where we’ll find such nuggets of wisdom such as “Text your partner or your children”. One assumes Fast Company readers are too busy making money to do much of this (although some are probably thinking: “I just texted them! I had to tell them I wouldn’t be home until midnight and not to bother waiting up.”)

Better is a list from the Girl Guides of the UK, whose list of “14 Five-Minute Fillers” is mostly full of kids’ games, but also has the “A-Z Game”, which is a truly mindful way to rid your mind of negative thoughts. We also found a pretty good list from the Rebel Rousers website, which details “30 Things You Can Do To Relax in Under 5 Minutes“.

Once you’re relaxed enough, you can try to get your s— together, thanks to this list of “25 Things You Can Do In 5 Minutes Or Less” on the How To Get Your S— Together website. Meanwhile, the One Legal website, a specialist publication for the legal profession, lists “Serve Those Papers” as one of the things it recommends its readers do among its 10 things you can do in five minutes or less.


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